Cameron Clyne has decided that he has finally done enough for/to Australian Rugby and will not seek re-election as chairman at the Rugby Australia AGM in March next year. During his announcement he highlighted his many achievements as chairman and sought to indicate that his tenure has been positive overall for rugby in Australia. I am sorry Mr Clyne, but I respectfully disagree.
“Notwithstanding the very painful decision to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition and the mixed results of the Wallabies in recent years, “
This statement, for me, sums up Clyne. He has taken the two most significant events of his tenure and summarily dismissed them both as unimportant or secondary. As chairman, Clyne did everything in his power to try and wipe the Force off the map, disenfranchising the third largest rugby community in the country. He also oversaw the greatest decline in the Wallabies ranking and popularity in living memory, thereby disenfranchising most of the rest. I understand why he would like to skip past these dubious “achievements”, but the reality is that these are what will define his tenure when he is judged by history. It is certainly what has defined his tenure as he has been judged by the Australian Rugby public.
“Female participation in rugby has tripled, we’ve seen enormous growth in Sevens participation on the back of the gold medal success of our women’s team”
The growth of the Womens game in Australia is commendable, but his comments require context. Mist of the growth that Clyne talks about here came as a result of the remarkable and awesome upsurge in womens elite sport participation worldwide across all codes, aided substantially by the wonderful run of Aus Womens 7s at the Olympics and the World Series. The problem, 7s aside, is that Rugby is very much being dragged along for the ride in this rather than leading the way. My real fear is that when/if the momentum falls away a bit, there is nothing significant driving continued participation in Womens Rugby in Aus, particularly in the XV’s game. I have said before, Rugby needs to learn from and at least match the opportunities other codes in Australia are offering young up and coming talented sports women, or we will have very few opting for a career in Rugby.
“against global trends in participation we have achieved growth in traditional XVs rugby in several states and territories.”
According to World Rugby (on their website), the total number of registered rugby players worldwide grew from 2.82 million to 3.2 million in 2016 alone. By any measure I have seen, rugby is growing at a much healthier rate globally than it is in Australia. But let’s look at what Clyne has done to grow the game. During his tenure the number of Australian teams in Super Rugby has reduced from 5 to 4, with rumours growing that we will continue all the way back to “the good old days” and make it 3. The NRC, a true vehicle for growth, has struggled through a woeful lack of promotion, which is especially galling when you remember that an offer of $50 million dollars for the NRC was knocked back by Clyne. If Rugby is indeed growing in this country, I would argue it is in spite of rather because of the actions of Cameron Clyne.
Clyne will officially step down in April, meaning there is still plenty of time left for him to exert his influence on RA. There are two major decisions currently pending with RA, a new broadcast deal for Super Rugby and the appointment of a new Wallabies Coach (announced yesterday as Dave Rennie). Both of these decisions are vitally important for Australian Rugby going forward and it concerns me that Clyne will still have his hand firmly in both of these decisions. That means we could still be experiencing Clynes influence 4 years after he steps down from the role. I don’t see this as good business practice, for any organisation. By all means keep him on until he can give a proper hand-over to his anointed successor, but please keep him away from any long term, important decisions please.
There are many who are celebrating the fact that Clyne is stepping down but I don’t count myself among them. Instead I mourn the fact that it didn’t happen sooner and fret about who the replacement may be. In fact, April provides a solid chance for some real generational change on the RA board as there are currently 4 positions open. Please RA, don’t give us another bunch of bankers.